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The Golem of Prague: A Story for Passover

During the life of Rabbi Judah Loew ben Bezalel – otherwise known as the Maharal – there were many stories of wonder, wit and wisdom, but one of the strangest has to be the story of the Golem.

 

The community at that time was persecuted, and, during Passover, the whole Jewish quarter of Prague lived in fear of pogroms, the Blood Libel – a story that the Jews used the blood of a Christian child to bake the Passover matzos – being the excuse for such things. Emperor Rudolf II could not or would not protect the community. So the Maharal made a Golem of clay from the banks of the Vltava river: a Golem to protect the community in times of trouble: a Golem upon whose forehead was written the Hebrew word “emet,” meaning Truth: a Golem who, on a piece of parchment, has the *unutterable name of the Most High* upon his tongue. Each night, Rabbi Loew removes the name of the *Most High,* and the Golem sleeps. But one night, so some stories say, he forgets and the Golem kills to protect the community. Rabbi Loew promises the Emperor that he will destroy the Golem if he stops the persecution of the community.

 

Rabbi Judah Loew, the Maharal, removes the parchement but he also rubs out the first letter on the creature’s forehead, changing the word EMET – Truth – to MET, or Death.

 

The word Golem occurs once in the Bible in Psalms 139:16, which uses the word גלמי, meaning “my unshapen form.” Sometimes in Yiddish it has come to mean clumsy or stupid.

I always had a soft spot for the Golem. Anyone who has read Mary Shelley cannot but see the resemblence and as she spent some time in Prague before she wrote Frankenstien she must have heared the legend of the Golem.

 

He sleeps beneath the leaves … should you need him …

 

G-d is good.

 

Originally published on Facebook in the Festival of Stories group